The Technological Opportunity for Nurses
Introduction: The Nursing Shortage
One of the dilemmas that the United States has to face is caring for aging baby boomers. People born during the baby boom period are now thinking of retirement, and as the United States once saw seemingly exponential population growth in the 1930s and 1940s, we will see similar growth in the retirement rate in the next five-10 years.
Nurses are among many of those retiring and needing care (Facts, 2001, p.1). Indeed “by the year 2010, 40% of the nurses will be 50 years old or older” (Nevidjon, 2001, p. 1). Many nurses share the sentiments of Susan Farrel, who is a 55-year-old nurse in Vermont and says that “she’ll be ready to retire or at least cut back on her hours in the next five years” (Lack, 2005). In 2020, “the U.S. will need 1.7 million nurses,” while the supply is likely to be only 600,000 (Tremel, 2004, pg. 63).
What is to be done to remedy the situation of our aging and retiring nurses? Some states are taking innovative steps by starting “shift-bidding” for part-time nurses (Smith, 2005, p. 1), requiring mandatory reduction of nurse-to-patient ratios (Leighty, 2004, p. 1), changing the nurses’ image to the public (McPeck, 2004, p.1), raising scholarship money for students, repaying student loans, offering signing bonuses and higher salaries, and offering continuing education for current nurses (Feldman, 2003, 17-20). Also, some nurses are opting to go back to school in order to further their education (Scott, 2005, p. 1). Those who opt to go back to school to get an advanced degree usually benefit from increased money and respect. Nurse practitioners receive “two to three times the amount” of what a starting faculty member makes (2005, p. 2), which gives those considering a nursing career or advanced nursing degree incentive to pursue or continue their education. Yet, demanding schedules and unreliable shifts make going to school difficult. This is where the online nursing courses come into play. Better education, minus commute and shift time, equals a technological learning opportunity for students. Online courses can help to curb the nursing shortage by providing more learning opportunities for students and nurses that can benefit them personally and professionally, especially with their future patients.
Examples of Online Courses
Researching online courses provided by colleges and universities reveals few opportunities for students who are working towards their bachelor’s degree in nursing. However, online continuing education courses and career advancement courses are extremely accessible to any nurse in any stage of his/her career. For example, a nurse with an associate degree wishing to advance to Registered Nurse status can do so by taking online courses (Nursing, 2000, p. 18). Also, the “Certified Paramedic to Associate Degree Nurse Transition Tract” allows students to “capitalize on skills they possess as paramedics...